LAS VEGAS (AP) — Blake Griffin will have surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and the U.S. forward will miss the Olympics.
Griffin returned to Los Angeles on Thursday for further evaluation after reporting discomfort in the same knee that bothered him in the playoffs following Wednesday’s practice. The Clippers said he will require arthroscopic surgery and should be ready for training camp.
“We’re relieved that this does not affect Blake’s ability to be ready in time for training camp,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said in a statement. “Missing out on the Olympic experience will be tough for him to take. I know how dedicated he was to doing that. We’re glad we can get this fixed now and take advantage of the available time for him to fully recover.”
USA Basketball officials said following their 113-59 victory over the Dominican Republic on Thursday night that they hadn’t been told Griffin would be forced to pull out. Once he does, the Americans will be able to replace him on their 12-man roster, likely with Anthony Davis.
Davis, the national college player of the year, was added to the roster for the exhibition game and scored nine points in 10 minutes against the Dominicans, who were led by his college coach, John Calipari of national champion Kentucky.
The Americans love Davis’ rebounding and shot blocking, but not his youth. Griffin is older and stronger, and coach Mike Krzyzewski noted he’s played against Spain center Pau Gasol in the NBA.
“Blake is a proven commodity and if we don’t have him, it’s a big loss,” Krzyzewski said. “He was playing really well for us.”
The Clippers, who just signed Griffin to a 5-year, $95 million extension, said the All-Star forward had an MRI that revealed a meniscus tear. He will see another specialist Sunday and surgery is expected to be scheduled soon.
Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, is a team alternate after failing to make the 12-man roster. He had sprained his ankle in a workout with the New Orleans Hornets and wasn’t able to scrimmage in the first two days of camp before the Americans picked their roster, robbing him of any chance to grab a spot.
But USA Basketball had asked him to stick around on the select team of young players that was training against the Americans, in case an injury popped up. He was in Los Angeles on Wednesday for the ESPY Awards, but traveled back to Las Vegas on Thursday.
And if he sticks with the Americans, Calipari will have to alter his summer plans after the Dominicans finished one win short of qualifying for the Olympics.
“If he’s on the team and he makes that trip then I’m probably going to have to make a trip to London, anyway,” Calipari said.
Davis’ defensive talents would be a welcome addition on a U.S. team that has New York’s Tyson Chandler as its only remaining center. Players can be replaced on the roster in case of injury any time up to 48 hours before the start of the Olympics.
Griffin was hurt during the playoffs and struggled through the pain before the Clippers were ousted in the second round by San Antonio. After taking a couple of weeks off, he was back on the court and had been playing well for the Americans, who planned to use him at center.
“Hopefully he gets back quick and has a great season next year because he deserves it,” U.S. teammate Kevin Durant said. “You know he played so hard and he’s all about the team and we’re going to string Anthony along and hopefully he comes in and fills a void.”
The Americans lost two centers, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh, to injuries before camp, along with Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade. Chris Paul, Griffin’s Clippers teammate, sprained his right thumb on the first day of camp and has been sitting out scrimmages.
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